Having both Jewish and Christian families inspired me to make a braided stollen for Hannukah/ Christmas/ Chrismukkah, kind of like a challah bread. I made a chollen? I've also wanted to have a go making Weihnachtsstollen for a couple of years but never got around to it. Well, here we are!
I made homemade marzipan here, and let me tell you this now: it's nothing like the plastic stuff you can buy from the supermarket. It's laughably easy to make, too: just bung two parts almonds (whole or already ground), one part icing sugar, a bit of almond extract and just enough water to bind everything into the processor until it forms a dough. Done! The flavour and texture is amazing, and you could add other things in if you like, too: vanilla, rosewater, spices- anything you like. You could use store bought for this recipe, of course- but seriously, just take an extra five minutes to make your own. You won't regret it.
There was one ingredient I had at the ready that I forgot to add in: chopped mixed peel. I only realised this when I had shaped the dough and it was too late. However the end result was still delicious and I didn't miss it at all, proving that you can tailor this recipe to your own tastes. Here I used mixed raisins and sultanas, orange-infused cranberries, glace cherries and pistachios (with the fruit components soaked in dark rum overnight). You could just as easily use other dried fruits, chocolate chips, fudge pieces or anything else you love.
One slightly different thing I did was to do the first prove of the dough overnight in the fridge. This allowed me to save time by making the dough in the evening and shaping and baking it the next morning for brunch (win). You could just make the dough up on the day you want to bake it and prove it for an hour in a warm place, but the dough will sit quite happily in the fridge for a few hours. Because it's cold in there and the yeast gets "sleepy", the dough will rise much more slowly, so you don't have to worry about over-proving. Just be aware that the dough will be a bit stiff when you first take it out of the fridge because of the butter in it solidifying. Both the cold overnight and room-temp hour proving methods will work just as well- it's a matter of preference.
Another slightly different thing I did (because I wasn't really thinking atthe time) was to add the fruits to the dough before kneading. Ideally you actually want to do this *after* needing, or you'll squish the fruit around too much and discolour the dough. Not a disaster- but your dough will take on a slightly darker hue like mine. Again, it's up to you: either way you'll get a delicious stollen out of it.
There are a few steps to this stollen, but it's quite easy when you get going. Just read through the steps a few times first and go for it!
Fruits and Nuts Ingredients:
The following soaked for a few hours/ overnight in rum:
-100g mixed sultanas and raisins
-50g glace cherries
-50g dried cranberries
-50g unsalted shelled pistachios
-50g chopped mixed peel (I accidentally missed this out but it was absolutely fine)
-2tsp fast action/ dry active yeast
-150ml warm milk
-75g caster sugar
-75g unsalted butter, softened
-Pinch of salt
-400g plain flour
-1/2 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg
-200g ground almonds
-100g icing sugar
-1tsp almond extract (not artificial flavouring, that stuff can be nasty)
-About 3tbsp water (to add bit by bit)
-A little butter for brushing
-Icing sugar to dust
1) Stir the yeast into the warm milk until dissolved and set aside
2) Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon,
3) Mix egg in until well combined and stir in the yeasty milk (wow that sounded appetising...)
5) Gradually stir in the remaining dry ingredients (flour, salt and spices) until it comes together
6) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes until no longer sticky and until the dough starts to "fight back" (when it pings back when you try to stretch it)
7) Drain the rum-soaked fruits, pat them off with kitchen towel to dry and knead the fruits and nuts into the dough
8) Place the dough into an oiled bowl, rolling it around so it's lightly coated in oil, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight in the fridge so it doubles in size
|(Please excuse the portrait shot, I got a new phone and was testing out the camera)|
9) The next day, take the dough out of the fridge to de-chill a little while you make the marzipan
10) To make the marzipan, put the almonds and sugar in the food processor and start blending. Add the water as a slow trickle just until it starts to clump up in the processor, and continue to blend until it forms a ball
11) Split the stollen dough into four equal pieces and roll them into four snakes of equal length (I used the length of my rolling pin as a guide). Do the same with your marzipan, making sure they're slightly shorter than the stollen dough snakes
12) Roll out each dough snake to flatten, place a marzipan snack in the centre (I flattened them out a little but you don't have to) and gather the dough around to make a marzipan-stuffed dough snake
13) Repeat until you have four complete ropes, and braid (check out how to do a four-stranded braid in Youtube, it's a lot easier for you to see than for me to describe!)
14) Place on a lined and greased baking tray, cover with lightly oiled clingfilm and leave for an hour and a half in a warm place for the second and final prove until it's doubled in size
15) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
16) When the oven has reached the correct temperature, pop your stollen in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown and fully risen
17) While still hot, brush with the melted butter and dredge well with icing sugar
18) Leave to cool completely (alright then, until it's still slightly warm...), slice and enjoy!
You can't see it very well in these shots, but I used Sparkling Christmas icing sugar for an even more festive touch. Look at how pretty!
Remember to knead the dough well to get the gluten going: with enough elbow grease, you get a lovely light and fluffy stollen packed full of goodies. <3